Nukewatch Quarterly Fall 2013
By Harvey Wasserman
In a long overdue victory for the grassroots movement for a green-powered Earth, Entergy Corp. has announced it will shut its Vermont Yankee reactor by the end of 2014.
“It’s fantastic,” says longtime safe-energy activist Deb Katz. “This is such a win for the people, for the state of Vermont and for democracy.”
The Green Mountain State’s only commercial reactor was recently relicensed to operate another two decades. Entergy spent millions in legal fees to establish a right to resist Vermont’s legislative attempt to shut Yankee on safety grounds. Announcing this shutdown just two weeks after an apparent victory in federal court indicates the legal battle was really a holding action to protect its other reactors.
But the court decision also opened Entergy to other challenges, especially in front of Vermont’s Public Service Board. “Hidden in the federal ruling Entergy ostensibly won was a confirmation that the state, through the PSB, had the right to reject Vermont Yankee’s continued operation on reliability, economics and more,” Katz said.
And, says Katz, “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission accepted our petition to pry open Entergy’s finances.”
This is the fifth reactor shutdown announced since 2013 began with 104 licensed US reactors. Barring additional likely closures, Yankee’s demise will bring the US to 99. Nebraska’s Ft. Calhoun is still down after being flooded. As many as seven proposed US reactors have been canceled since January, turning the much-hyped “nuclear renaissance” into a radioactive renunciation. Upgrades at five other reactors have been canceled.
Entergy’s two-reactor complex at Indian Point, north of New York City, is now under intense political fire, and its embattled Pilgrim reactor at Plymouth, south of Boston, recently had to reduce power due to climate-warmed Cape Cod Bay cooling water. Its Palisades reactor on Lake Michigan has been linked to heightened local cancer rates.
As Amory Lovins has shown, Germany’s decision to shut all 17 of its reactors and transition to renewables looms large over a technology whose credibility has been decimated by the ongoing catastrophe at Fukushima. Any talk of nuclear power being a solution for climate change has exploded with that disaster and the rapid deterioration of the US industry.
Jon Wellinghoff, Chair of the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has put it this way: solar power is about to “overtake everything.”
The regional nonviolent movement to shut Vermont Yankee stretches back four decades. This victory was preceded by the 1990s closure of the nearby Yankee Rowe reactor, the cancellations of construction downwind at Seabrook Unit Two, of two proposed units at downriver Montague, and much, much more.
Thoroughly linked with national and international activism, the Yankee shutdown resulted from the tireless work of seasoned campaigners who have never stopped. Like the recent victory at San Onofre, this New England campaign has been built around countless individual actions, organizing meetings, public hearings, marches, concerts, rallies, picket lines, nonviolent civil resistance and a savvy, in-it-for-the-long-haul dedication from people for whom ridding the world of nuclear power is the only end point.
It stands as a model for peaceful democratic social change that has cleared a visible path to a sustainable, socially just and ecologically sound planet on which to live.
— Author Harvey Wasserman edits www.nukefree.org. He wrote “Solartopia!” and hosts the “Green Power and Wellness” show at Progressive Radio Network, FM. This article, edited for space, is dedicated to Tony Mathews.